New eye on the Sun

The Solar Dynamics Observatory lifted off Thursday on a first-of-a-kind mission to reveal the Sun's inner workings.Provided by NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
By | Published: February 11, 2010 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Photograph of integrated Solar Dynamics Observatory.
February 11, 2010
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) lifted off Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41 on a first-of-a-kind mission to reveal the Sun’s inner workings in unprecedented detail. The launch aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:23 a.m. EST.

The most technologically advanced of NASA’s heliophysics spacecraft, SDO will take images of the Sun every 0.75 second and daily send back about 1.5 terabytes of data to Earth — the equivalent of streaming 380 full-length movies.

“This is going to be sensational,” said Richard R. Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA headquarters in Washington. “SDO is going to make a huge step forward in our understanding of the Sun and its effects on life and society.”

The Sun’s dynamic processes affect everyone and everything on Earth. SDO will explore activity on the Sun that can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt GPS communications. SDO also will provide a better understanding of the role the Sun plays in Earth’s atmospheric chemistry and climate.

SDO is the crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions to study our Sun. The mission is the cornerstone of a NASA science program called Living With A Star. This program will provide new understanding and information concerning the Sun and solar system that directly affect Earth, its inhabitants, and technology.